Friday, February 16, 2024

Orchid ~ all seven flowers

Friday, February 09, 2024

Orchid update ~ six

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Orchid update ~ five blossoms

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Lennon & McCartney

I don't know who took this photo or when it was taken (1962?) but this might be my favorite Lennon-McCartney photo of all time. 

My friend Rosemary took this photo last week in Slovenia.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Orchid update - three blossoms


Monday, January 22, 2024

Orchid update

Friday, January 19, 2024


My orchid bloomed!

I bought this orchid plant two years ago and it was tiny. When it was delivered it was already blooming.

Last year it did not bloom again, but kept growing, so I repotted it and then in December I noticed the green stem shooting up and now - voila!


Thursday, January 11, 2024

Tales of the Lincoln White House

  • Hell-cat
    Lincoln and two non-hell cats
    AI generated image

  • Satan's daughter
  • High-strung
  • Demanding
  • Impulsive
  • Natural born thief
  • Crazy
  • Shrewish
  • Termegant
  • Hot-tempered
  • Imperious
  • Stingy
  • Her Satanic Majesty
These are some of the many many unflattering things that people who knew Mary Lincoln had to say about her. 

The only unalloyed positive that most people could say about Mary was that she spurred Lincoln onto the presidency because she was even more ambitious than he was.

It didn't hurt that Lincoln sometimes slept in his office and worked in his office on Sundays to get away from his wife and her rages.

I think of the Trump presidency as the answer to the question "what if Mary Lincoln had been president instead of Abe?"

I've discovered a lot about the Lincoln White House since I started researching a play I'm working on about the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Recently I happened upon a book by historian Michael Burlingame called "An American Marriage: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd" and wow Burlingame spills all the tea about Mary Lincoln.

They really cleaned her up for the movie "Lincoln" - she is portrayed as merely a little arrogant and sort of snippy and she throws only one tantrum. She complains at the end of the movie that the only thing people will remember about her was that she was a crazy woman who made Lincoln miserable. Since she has been sanitized for our protection, there's a tendency to think that maybe she's been unfairly portrayed. 

But she was crazy and she did make Lincoln miserable.

Many have defended her by saying, well of course she was ill-tempered and inclined to self-indulgence, she suffered so much ill-fortune, with three sons and a husband dying on her.

But did ill-fortune make her hit people - including her husband - and turn into a thief?
In 1994 the Chicago Tribune ran an article called Marygate: Lincoln's Scandal:
The diary entries include details of (Owen Hickman ) Browning's conversations with Judge David Davis, who called Mrs. Lincoln "a natural born thief." She ran up astronomical bills for a $2,000 dress, furs and 300 pairs of kid gloves, and took things from the White House when she left, according to Davis, who acted as administrator of the Lincoln estate at one point.

"(S)tealing was a sort of insanity with her," Davis told Browning, according to a July 29, 1861, entry, made 14 years before Mrs. Lincoln was admitted for six months to a Batavia insane asylum.
I'm inclined to believe Burlingame about Mary Lincoln, although I did not appreciate some of the pop-psychology sections in the book.

In addition to info about Mary Lincoln, the Burlingame book mentions that Lincoln loved cats, and I followed up on that and found this article

President Abraham Lincoln “possessed extraordinary kindness of heart when his feelings could be reached,” wrote Treasury official Mansell B. Field in his memoirs. “He was fond of dumb animals, especially cats. I have seen him fondle one for an hour. 

This is also mentioned in the Burlingame book:
The president doted on the cats, which he named Tabby and Dixie, so much that he once fed Tabby from the table during a formal dinner at the White House.

When Lincoln’s embarrassed wife later observed that the action was “shameful in front of their guests,” the president replied, “If the gold fork was good enough for former President James Buchanan, I think it is good enough for Tabby.”

Mary - you knew this was coming - hated pets. Something else she has in common with Donald Trump.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

David Blight on Trump and the "Lost Cause"


Saturday, December 30, 2023

The return of the lonely New Year's Eve writer

This cover art from the New Yorker, from 1996, always spoke to me.

So I was excited to see that this year, twenty-eight years later, the New Yorker has another variation on the theme of lonely writer on New Year's Eve.

The first one is slightly less forlorn because the apparently hard-boiled dame in the foreground has a soulmate, a mug in an undershirt in the building across the street. Each taps away at their old-school typewriter.

Meanwhile the writer in 2024 has only a cat for a soulmate. And rather than a yellow incandescent light, she is lampless, seeing by the blue glow of her monitor. And rather than working on fiction, this year's writer appears to be toiling over a spreadsheet - something nobody outside of a certified accountant did back in 1996.

Both have those New York City apartment-style radiators though.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Murderbot's coming to a screen near you!

It’s a big day for a certain Murderbot who just wants to watch its soaps. Apple TV+ has announced that it’s adapting Martha Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries series, with Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood, The Northman)  on board as executive producer and to star as the titular Murderbot.

 The scripts for the ten-episode season have already been written (before the writers’ strike, in fact), and production is set to start in just three months. Directors Chris and Paul Weitz (About a Boy, Mozart in the Jungle) are the creators of the show (as well as the writers, directors and producers via their banner Depth of Field) and also serve as executive producers. Other executive producers include David S. Goyer, the showrunner for Apple TV+’s Foundation series, Keith Levine from the company Phantom Four, and Andrew Miano for Depth of Field. Wells serves as a consulting producer.

Unfortunately they haven't announced when.

In other media-nerd news, I finally got my Monk movie. It was pretty good - the ending was heart-rending,  and I laughed aloud at "Neil Diamond" but some aspects were not-so-good. 

Oh well, that's show-biz.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

My art is in the Brooklyn Museum

I attended two art schools: the Philadelphia College of Art (now called the University of the Arts) for a year on a scholarship, and I went to random classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts off and on between 1981 and 1988. Back then, before I switched to being a writer, I dreamed of one day having my artwork exhibited in a museum.

I never dreamed that it would happen via my Factsheet Five cover art.

Yesterday the Instagram account of someone associated with the Brooklyn Museum posted a photo from the new show at the Museum, called Copy Machine Manifestos: Artists Who Make Zines.

How weird is that? My cover art for Factsheet Five #34 can be seen in the first column on the left, the third one down.

Here's my copy. It depicts a high school student getting detention for reading a copy of Factsheet Five behind her math book. I was long out of high school when I drew this, but I guess I still had those fond memories.

I couldn't find my original art for this picture - it was drawn in black and white and then I cut out the spot color areas on a translucent sheet with an x-acto knife .

I do have the original artwork for Factsheet Five #26, sans spot color treatment.

I was pretty influenced by Jaime Hernandez of "Love and Rockets" fame.

The guy who runs the Factsheet Five archive occasionally uses the color version of the punk's shirt as a kind of logo.

And here is my first Factsheet Five cover, which has no spot color, from issue #23. This cover doesn't get the attention that the other two get, although really I'm kind of surprised any of them have found favor, the style is rather less rough-hewn than most Factsheet Five art, which is usually the preferred level of hewn.

But what was that weird obsession I had with drawing really long chins?

In any case, I guess I'm going to the Brooklyn Museum now. It's been over ten years since I was there, I guess it's about time anyway.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Weird Barbie for Halloween

My friend Renee doing a great job rocking the Weird Barbie vibe.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

I am a god unto the ants

I am a god unto the ants.
With a tiny effort I could
lift the bottle cap, that is now
blocking their procession and which
they must manuever around, thus
making all those lives easier.
Or I could crush them underfoot
even without knowing I have,
while wearing these heavy workboots.
Smiling on the oblivious
I hurry on my own business. 

~ N. G. McClernan 

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Here is my Valadon exhibition

When I was in France last March, I made a trip to the Georges Pompidou Center specifically to see work by Suzanne Valadon - and they had nothing!

I was like Où sont-ils, les tableaux ? All these paintings by Suzanne Valadon are supposed to be here!

Turns out they had removed all her paintings in preparation for a big exhibition of her work. But by the time the exhibition happened I was long out of Europe. 

Worst of all, I had already seen some of the paintings at the Barnes Foundation show - but they didn't have the portrait of Erik Satie. Which they had in this exhibition, based on its image that flashes by at minute 4:46.  That's what I wanted to see, most of all.



Saturday, September 23, 2023

Autumn ~ the best season

In the autumn night,

 Breaking into

A pleasant chat.

Changed the red color,

Fallen on the tofu,

The leaf of the light crimson maple.

The upper reaches here

And the lower of the river.

The friend for the moon.

Drinking the morning green tea,

The monk is calm.

The flowers of chrysanthemum.

Haiku by Matsuo Bashō

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Remembering Earl Rich 26 years later

It's been 26 years since Earl Rich died. He was only 32, just a month shy of 33. 

He would be 58 now. I can't imagine it.

This is him in Valley Forge, 1995.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023


In France, all Barbies are Proust Barbie

Well it's been said that the French are pretentious while at the same time taking silly things - like Jerry Lewis - too seriously.

And no better example of this can be found than in the latest edition of the French magazine L'Obs

They ran an opinion piece on the movie "Barbie" that manages to mention the Bible, Shakespeare, the Rocky movies and Sigmund Freud.

My French comprehension level in reading is still only at the B2 level, so I relied on Google Translate to make sure I got all the nuances. Here is the last paragraph of the piece, translated into English. 

No, I did not make this up. SPOILER ALERT.

By not addressing the troubled relationship between power and desire, the film reproduces a Manichean and binary vision of society. How to speak, live, work together, with or without desire, but in equality? What if Barbie gave up the newfound power when Ken became independent again and freed himself from her gaze? Foreign (this is the etymology of the first name Barbara), she agrees to acquire a vagina to save the human race. From the "missing penis" theorized by Freud to the "erased vagina" imagined by Mattel, the female body gives rise to all fantasies, even when it is made of plastic!

"Barbie" was chosen because that was the name of the daughter of Ruth Handler, creator of Barbie. Trust the French to discover a deep etymological significance.

Earlier in the piece we learn the etymology of Ken, which is short for Kenneth which means handsome. 

And without any spoiler warning the article gives away the ending of the movie in the first paragraph.

The author Jennifer Tamas is French but teaching literature at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Obviously Tamas has successfully resisted all American influences.

The Barbie movie mentions a Proust Barbie:
Barbie and Ken’s arrival in the real world puts Mattel executives on high alert and they order their capture. Ken makes his way back to Barbieland by himself after exploring more of the real world and learning about patriarchy, while Barbie is found by Mattel’s agents and taken to the company’s headquarters. There she meets Mattel’s CEO (Will Ferrell), who’s waiting for her with a huge Barbie box. Barbie gets in the box and mentions that the smell is a Proustian memory, with the CEO mentioning how badly the Proust Barbie sold. 
While Barbie features discontinued, controversial, and obscure Barbies and Kens, Mattel never made a Proust Barbie.
I'll bet Tamas thought there was a real Proust Barbie.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

La chambre bleue - happy centennial

One of Suzanne Valadon's most celebrated paintings, The Blue Room (La chamber bleue) was painted in 1923, so it's one hundred years old now. 

Wikipedia has a very good entry about the piece:

In contrast to Valadon's depiction of the female form, artists such as Titian, Ingres, and Manet depicted female nudes with idealized womanly features. For example, the Grand Odalique, Olympia, and Venus of Urbino underscore a gendered role of women with full female exposures atop beds—as something separate from the model—creating an imbalanced power dynamic between the artists and subject.[5] The Blue Room is a response to these paintings as well as others, such as Matisse's Blue Nude and Félix Vallotton's The White and the Black.[citation needed] Substituting a cigarette for Ingres's hookah and taking Matisse's bold outlines, among other traits from the aforementioned works, Valadon creates a "startlingly contemporary" lounger, capturing a depiction of everyday life which is entirely her own.[1] Valadon's subversion and appropriation of her predecessor's techniques ultimately instigate a new trajectory for future depictions of the female form.

Fun fact - it was painted two years before The Great Gatsby was published, to give some context. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Murderbot speaks!

I'm a big fan of the sci-fi series Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, and equally a fan of the voice actor who reads her books for audio, Kevin R. Free. 

So I was excited to find an interview, albeit brief, with Free on NPR.

Free talks about Murderbot here as well.

The cover for the next  book in the series is out - but the book won't come out until November. *sigh*

Monday, July 03, 2023

The Sophie Blackall saga continues

It's been a few years since I checked in with my arch-nemesis Sophie Blackall, the two-Caldecott award-winning, yet, nevertheless, terrible illustrator. And I was not happy to see that she is still, occasionally, hired to provide illustrations for adult media.

She gave Harvard Business Review two of the most anemic-looking rowers possible. 

I was amazed to find there is another Blackall critic out there. A blog called Booktoss has a post entitled Blackall's Bland as Blah... 

It really got my hopes up, that perhaps finally a true reconsideration of Blackall's dreck was underway, much like the work of Renoir is being reconsidered

Booktoss writes:
In the upper left corner there is an African American woman … she is pregnant and has 4 kids around here. Now, remember the page is about families, and in the US, that most often means a nuclear family.

What do you notice? She is Black, has lots of kids, she’s pregnant, and no partner is anywhere in sight.

What is the common and racist stereotype about Black women in America?


Absolutely right. But not a word about the wretchedness of the art? Not even about Blackall's habit of giving the face of every human - and occasionally even animals - round red cheek spots? 

Strangely, the rowers for Harvard Business Review do not have red cheek spots, and you'd think they would be more likely to have them, making a physical effort, rowing against each other. 

It occurred to me that perhaps she only does the red cheek spots for children's illustrations but you can see them in her subway art card, which is her absolute masterpiece in the ugly art competition, and meant not just for children but any hapless commuter. 

I would never have learned about the career of Sophie Blackall except that I was forced to stare at her subway art card for hours in over-crowded subway cars, and I finally had to learn the identity of the person responsible for my visual distress.

I happened to be thinking of Blackall recently because I made the acquaintance of the daughter of Lloyd Moss, who wrote an award-winning children's book called Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin

Thanks to its illustrations by Marjorie Priceman, it made "honor book" in the Caldecott awards for 1996, but was not the big winner.

Obviously Priceman's work is much better than the precious awkward pastel fussiness of Blackall. Blackall receiving the top award twice is a disgrace to the Caldecott award system. 

But just when I began to despair of the world of illustration, I read in Blackall's Wiki:
She seriously injured her hand in a fall while working at a children's camp.[2] Rehabilitative physical therapy has only been partially successful; she may have to give up precision drawing, and change her creative methods.
Now, although I despise her work, I wouldn't wish injury on Sophie Blackall. But if she had to be injured anyway, well... a change from her former "precision drawing" has the potential to make her a much better artist.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Juneteenth Pilgrimage

I went to the Lincoln Monument in observance of Juneteenth. 

I made it to the monument by 8AM so there was hardly anybody there and I got some pretty good pix of the statue.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Spring - the second best season

Roosevelt Island Henge

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Google has lost its mind

Well the people who run Google's Blogger have gone completely nuts and have decided to start randomly banning blog posts for this blog including inoffensive content like this:

TITLE: All the Presidents' Men


In this scene Woodward is typing to Bernstein that Deep Throat (now known as H. Mark Felt) said that their lives are in danger and they might be bugged.

Good timing. While news of the latest Bush shananigans are still in the air, , Channel 13, the New York PBS affiliate, is running both "All the President's Men" and Watergate Plus 30: Shadow of History, originally produced in 2003.

The similarities between Bush's concept of the presidency and Nixon's couldn't be clearer. Nixon thought, and Bush thinks that the president is above the laws of the United States - a virtual dictator.

Their biggest difference? Nixon subverted the Constitution covertly. Bush does it proudly and publicly.

As Nixon aid and Watergate witness John Dean observed, Bush is "the first president to admit to an impeachable offense."

There IS a political will to impeach. Get off your asses Democratic representatives!!!

Aside: The story of Robert Redford's involvement in the Watergate movie is very interesting

That's the content. I guess because the idiots at Google have decided to use AI to flag posts and their AI thinks that "Deep Throat" refers to the pornographic movie (which is, to be sure, the origin of the term) instead of a legitimate historical fact that Woodward and Bernstein used the term to refer to H. Mark Felt.

Google has lost its mind.

Fun fact: I once worked as a contractor for Google and my impression of Google's full-time employees was that they were all on drugs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

This guy loves "Life During Wartime"

Because he likes "older music."  😿 OLDER MUSIC!!!!

But you gotta love watching anybody seeing David Byrne doing his noodle dance for the first time.

I've mentioned before, watching these videos, where somebody just reacts to watching music for the first time is a lot more fun than you might expect.

But shit, I saw "Stop Making Sense" when it was first released in theaters. Which was only like a few years ago according to my internal clock!



David Byrne is still out there, still rocking.

Just like me.


Thursday, April 20, 2023

The Barnes Foundation strikes back

As discussed previously on this blog, there is a group, called "Renoir Sucks at Painting" which, quite justifiably in my opinion, dislikes the paintings of Renoir. I've detested his work since I was in art school.

I was at the Barnes Foundation museum a year and a half ago to see its Suzanne Valadon exhibition. Interestingly, Valadon modeled for Renoir, before she became a painter in her own right. I compared her work with Renoir's

I also noted that the Barnes Foundation is known for having a huge collection of Renoirs. I imagined they wouldn't be pleased with the RSAP movement and its threat to their business model.

Well the Barnes Foundation is fighting back. Their post on Linked In (why Linked In?) says:
💡Did you know?💡 A lot of people love to hate Pierre-Auguste #Renoir. There’s even an Instagram account dedicated to him called “Renoir Sucks at Painting.” While it is debatable if he truly sucks, he undoubtedly occupies the strange position of being one of the most beloved artists of all time yet also one of the most reviled.

Join us online on Wednesdays, 5/3 – 5/24, from 12-2 pm, *live from the Barnes galleries*—home to the largest Renoir collection in the world (181 paintings, to be exact!) for #BarnesClass: In Defense of Renoir, to survey the artist’s paintings and discuss some of the specific criticisms they have inspired across the decades. We’ll consider this question: what if his work is more interesting than we thought?

After discussing Renoir’s theories of art, we will use deep-zoom technology to look closely (more closely than you ever thought you could get to a priceless painting, tbh) at several canvases to develop a better appreciation for his craftsmanship and how it reflects the values of the early 20th century.

Renoir haters will be encouraged to rethink their opinions—but are also welcome to dig in their heels! Register for this course today

On Instagram, the Renoir Sucks at Painting response includes a video by Martha Lucy, Deputy Director for Research, Interpretation & Education Barnes Foundation along with this comment:
Hey Everybody! This is actually happening! The @barnesfoundation has an online class all about Renoir and they’ve invited us to participate! Congratulations to us all. We are a part of Art History, and our ghosts will haunt the vibes of Renoir lovers for generations to come.
Each class will be cool and informative. And also funny. You can buy tickets at the link in the bio, and if you’re willing to subject yourself to the indignity of typing RENOIR4EVER into the discount code box at checkout, you’ll save 10%. 
Also! very important! If the cost, discount notwithstanding is prohibitive, dm me! I’ll gladly walk you through getting a full ride. These Barnes curators, cheeky though they might be, are really good about making sure this thing is accessible to all!

In her 2019 lecture available on YouTube, "The Trouble with Renoir" Lucy seems defensive and even a little whiny, and the title refers to "the trouble" that not everybody loves Renoir like Martha Lucy does.

She argues that because many critics of Renoir use food terminology it means that they are equating Renoir's work with pleasure and since the critics are suspicious of pleasure, that is why they don't like his work. 

What bullshit.

The RSAP gang use a great food-related word that perfectly captures the painful diabetic ketoacidosisness of Renoir's work: "treacle."

Later in the lecture, Lucy admits part of the trouble with Renoir is the vapid male-gaze nudes he painted during his creepy-old-man-going-blind late period. But then she tries to excuse it by claiming Renoir was being "subversive."

And claiming Renoir was a big influence on the hideously misogynist Picasso is not the slam-dunk she apparently thinks it.

On the plus side, the lecture alerted me to this funny piece in The Onion: Art World Relieved As Thieves Steal Pretty Terrible Late Period Renoir Work

Monday, April 17, 2023


I saw some amazing mountain views while traveling by train through Germany and Austria.

On the other hand, I think I have a pretty great view out my own window.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Scenes from my recent European trip

On the train through Germany - contrary to stereotype, it was late.

View from my hotel room in Paris

The less-classy side of Paris

View from an Austrian castle with my friends

Also from the Austrian castle - these Fräuleins appeared to be participating in some kind of traditional Austrian bachelorette party. I admit I was afraid they would burst into "Tomorrow Belongs to Me."

Naomi & Patty at the Louvre

They love English language graffiti in Slovenia

Back in Paris - the hills of Montmartre were brutal - my calves were aching - but beautiful.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

I got my Monk movie!

I've been having a Monk marathon and I have been thinking about how the Monk character would react to the pandemic.

Someone in the comments on YouTube suggested a Monk movie.


And today I found out it's happening. I am ECSTATIC!

‘Monk’ Returns As Peacock Orders Reunion Movie Starring Tony Shalhoub & Original Series Cast
In the follow-up movie, Monk, a brilliant San Francisco-based detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder, returns to solve one last, very personal case involving his beloved stepdaughter Molly, a journalist preparing for her wedding.

“When creator Andy Breckman came to us with a new Monk case set in present day, we immediately fell in love with this story all over again,” said Michael Sluchan, EVP, Movies, Kids, Daytime, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “The movie has the heart and humor of the original series with a contemporary relevance, and we’re overjoyed to work with the original creative team, including Andy, David Hoberman, Randy Zisk, the unparalleled Tony Shalhoub, and our partners at UCP, for what is sure to be a must-see movie event for Peacock audiences.”

I hope they bring some of the guest stars from the show into the movie - like Sarah Silverman. 

He may not be F. Murray Abraham...

Monday, March 13, 2023

The fully homogenized Greenwich Village

Every now and then I'll see an old movie that makes a reference to those wacky bohemian artist-types who live in Greenwich Village, and it's always a shock from an early 21st-century perspective. 

Greenwich Village has been on the road to rich person domination for several decades now, but a recent article in the New Yorker makes it clear that it has just about completed its transformation, much like Disney completely transformed Times Square:

Perhaps it is also why so many have schemed to take over a money-losing local newspaper, and why so many followed its coverage and, later, its apparent theft. For Villagers, WestView provided a bit of friction in a neighborhood whose bustling tenements have been replaced by single-family mansions, and where life has become largely frictionless. One day, Capsis noted to me that the block has become eerily quiet. Some weekends, it seems that all the residents have left town for their vacation homes. The WestView saga, at least, gave its participants something to talk about. The squabbles, rumors, and side-taking enacted something like a community.

As the article mentions elsewhere, the only people who remember the bohemian days of Greenwich Village are very old.

And when, every so often, some friction is introduced, it outrages the wealthy of Greenwich Village.

Now that the wealthy have homogenized and deadened Greenwich Village, as they inevitably do to any place they gather in large numbers, perhaps it will lose its cachet and its properties will lose value and the cycle will begin again.